Guadeloupe, le bilan

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent six weeks as a summer program leader in Guadeloupe for VISIONS Service Adventures. It was great! The work was very intense and often stressful, but it was worth it to experience a new and special place alongside a great group of staff and participants. (Bilan is the French word for assessment or report and in Guadeloupe it also referred to our group debriefing and sharing session, held every other day.) Read on for more pictures and words!

Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center

It may sound like the dying scream of a Western gunslinger, but SARJKCCC is actually the new 52,000 square foot community center that the Salvation Army is building on Division Street next to Yankie Stadium. This location will be familiar to many volunteers as the former home of the large Salvation Army dome, which was dismantled in September 2009. According to WLOX, the facility will include “a full-size gymnasium, dance and aerobics studio, and weight and fitness rooms with all sorts of cardio and exercise equipment.” It will also have an indoor swimming area with a two-story water slide, splash …

A House for Henry

Henry is an elderly man living in a quiet back alley near Nichols Elementary School. His house is being rebuilt by the Hope Community Development Agency using federal hurricane recovery funds. He asked for very little, just a small, comfortable house with a nice place to sit outside and spend time with friends.


It turns out that Virginia’s New River Valley has its very own design studio. It’s part of a non-profit community development corporation called Community Housing Partners (CHP) that works throughout Virginia and the surrounding region. The Community Design Studio (CDS) is located in Christiansburg, VA, about 8 miles from my house in Blacksburg. And I went and moved 800 miles to work at a design studio in Biloxi, Mississippi! I must be crazy. I found out about the CDS through its connection to the Rose Fellowship Program. The Rose Fellowship is a three-year architectural fellowship supported by Enterprise Community Partners …

Construction Demonstration Pods

Building a house is a mysterious process for most people, and hurricane-resistant building is even more daunting. Even professional builders can be confused by the many building codes, insurance requirements, engineering calculations, and best practices that apply to residential construction on the Gulf Coast. With that in mind, the GCCDS recently embarked on a project to build three full-scale construction demonstration pods for the Mississippi Home & Garden Show on March 19-21. The pods were part of a Resiliency Expo organized by the Community & Regional Resilience Institute, a research initiative supported by the Department of Homeland Security, Oak Ridge …

USGBC 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition

A group from the GCCDS is entering the United States Green Building Council’s 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition. This is a competition for emerging professionals or students to design an efficient green house for an elderly client in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. Ultimately, four designs will be chosen for construction, and these will be evaluated based on the project criteria to choose a ‘winner’. Meeting these criteria will be no easy feat. Here’s an idea of the difficult (some might say crazy) program requirements: 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath, 720-880 SF house LEED Platinum $100,000 construction budget Elevated 7 feet above …

A House for John, 2

Volunteer group Christian Aid Ministries has returned to the coast for another season and they are once again blowing us away with the speed and quality of their work. On the morning of January 4, John’s house in East Biloxi was nothing more than a floor raised in the air. Two weeks later, a fully framed house stands ready for roofing, siding, and windows.

Make your slideshow interactive with page links

A slideshow is typically a one-dimensional presentation tool — a series of images that the presenter advances while she talks. But what if a slideshow could be more like a website — an interactive, multi-dimensional tool for exploring complex or layered information? It turns out that it’s not hard to add page links and other interactive elements. I’ll show how to use Adobe InDesign CS3 to create an interactive PDF, although similar effects are possible in PowerPoint. The background: here at the GCCDS, we wanted to create a slideshow that would display a ‘matrix’ of ideas: three aspects of our …

Lorena’s Dedication

This morning, IRD held a ceremony to dedicate Lorena’s house, which is now finished thanks to the hard work of Training U, Pathfinder Mission, and YouthBuild. The house looks great; this YouthBuild class has learned a lot and done a great job.

Biloxi’s draft Comprehensive Plan

This week, the City of Biloxi held a series of public meetings to solicit community input into the draft of the city’s new Comprehensive Plan (see an online version of the plan here). The plan, produced by Wallace Roberts & Todd, is nicely put together; but at 232 pages, it’s more than casual reading.  The draft plan: Focuses on the next 20-25 years. Will be revised to address public comments and a final Comprehensive Plan will be adopted by City Council. Will be implemented through the Land Development Ordinance, zoning adjustments, and city projects (roads, sidewalks, key buildings). So what …